The Quietness of the Street

Kruf, J.P. (2018) The Quietness of the Street.

Every city has its places, where the quietness of the street opens the story. Here you almost can hear the whispering of those who lived here centuries ago and the breath of an empire. This colourful and straight palette is fully packed with information and reminds us of the rich history of one of the oldest cities in Europe, Cadíz. Sherlock knows that this city was and is strictly managed in many ways. You can feel it. It is a form of art, that of city management. A beauty.

Leadership in Reflection

Jack Kruf

Leadership is redefined after every crisis. New ideas and reflections on what happened (was Covid-19 a white swan, was it a black swan?) and what the role of the C-Suite and of public leadership was or should have been, are numerous. Really hundreds and hundreds of articles find their way each day on the world wide web.

In my personal view – following the lessons of the forest – has every organism to make the maximal use of the factors light (energy), water and nutrients. These help it to just be, to exist, to flourish, to live and get offspring. the factors also influence the chances of every person, animal, flower, the daisy (Bellis perennis L.), because every species has unique capabilities. What seems to be clear is that these basic factors – literally and in more so in figurative ways – have changed dramatically during the crisis. It causes a shift. The wisdom of Darwin comes in.

Even daisies have to constantly compete for the available factors of life to find their way up. Like we all have to do. And yes, some stand out of the crowd, like on this picture. Leadership can be seen as a result of the biotic and abiotic parts of the ecosystem and not – as many of us try to reason and argument, about personal skills. It is driven by basic mechanism of survival (‘of the fittest’). In the forest, leadership is not the driving concept as such – as we know it in public governance schools, but more a result of this need within the ecological web. The state of leadership can be considered as an indicator of the state of the underlying system, and is not per se as a personal set of skills.

It is interesting to read about the many reflections on leadership today, just after a crisis – they highly differ by the way from thoughts before the crisis, as ever. For daisies, we ecologists know how it works, where and why they grow and what this is saying about their environmental circumstances. Well, that is interesting. For humans it seems to be less clear. Still the dominating city sciences, like Public administration, public management or public governance, provide us not with answers on the aspect of the indicatorship (no, not dictatorship) of leadership within the system. The eruption of (scientific) studies and reflections seems to indicate we lack proper criteria to measure leadership as a quality of the system.

Covid-19 will give us ‘leadership in reflection’, that is sure. But let us not forget – a plea as ecologist and a city manager (still vibrant) – that leadership is a consequence of something else in the system. Let us therefore dig deeper, prevent the superficial and quick analysis, the running to solutions behaviour and the blaming and really come with new thoughts than just a new set of personal habits (8 or so?). Maybe the daisy, this beautiful and clear flower of the forest, can guide us on this.

Janus and the art of navigation

The god Janus.

Jack Kruf

When it comes to navigation in times of high dynamics and change, it was pilot John Boyd who developed a revolutionary and simple concept, the OODA loop: observe, orient, decide and act. The first steps are crucial, he said, when you fly with a speed of 900 km/h, upside down and 100 meter above a mountainous landscape. Is this not the situation where we as society are in today? After Boyd many scientists, experts and advisers developed a myriad of concepts, frameworks and approaches to tackle change and to find navigation in a volatile world.

The Romans already had a god for transitions, gates, passages and doorways. They called him Janus, derived form iānus, meaning in Latin ‘arched passage, doorway’. Can we say that we find ourselves in a doorway, a gate? And can we say we need to find our path, i.e. through developing a circular economy, caring for digital transformation, implementing energy transition, innovating water management, tackling a first grade health crisis, dealing with inequality, racism and poverty? Yes, we can. We are in a doorway, maybe on a threshold towards a new world. Janus is our ‘man’, our god. We need to give him more thought in our souls, not worship him, and ask him advice in the steps to come.

I think I timed the moment (exactly 10 years after my father died) and find the right angle of sunlight, beaming (was it actually him?) through this work of art at our home. Janus looking forward, Janus looking backward and in reflection its metaperspective. The art of navigation is alike. Observe by looking forward and backward, and orient where you are by reflecting on this, decide and act.

Janus and the art of navigation. Janus is presiding over all beginnings and transitions. Should we ask him for his wisdom again? And if we do, let’s not forget John.

Representative democracy

Kruf, J.P. (2018) Representative democracy.

Jack P. Kruf

Playing chess late afternoon yesterday, I considered the black pawn as the representative of the white pawns. Welcome in the new world. She or he is elected by the people, the fellow citizens, in an election for a legislature. The power of her or him is (usually) curtailed by a constitution or other measures to balance representative power. We know how it works with power. People sometimes forget about the starting points and constraints.

In principle, overseeing this team on the chess board, they are of the same height. O, yes. The black pawn as a representative of the group, of the people, accessible, transparant, communicating, never forgetting its background and working for the people. Wouldn’t that be great!?

George Floyd and social corrosion

Kruf, J.P. (2016) Corrosion.

Well, I thought this could be the first of a set of coaching cards for public and political leaders to diagnose what is going on in society – the death of George Floyd emerges as a pars pro toto for a large scale form of racism, and which can be considered as a form of social corrosion – this to be fully aware, share perspectives and return to stewardship. It links him to the individual policeman, to his team and boss, to the police as corporate institution, to their managers, to their governors, to the president, to the system and to ourselves. Pars pro toto can not be better explained.

It is a personal association with how life in cities is dominated by demonstrations of people who ask for love, equality and justice. The city is alive and speaks loud and clear. Leaders are brought in reflection and confrontations what they actually are leading. Their leadership is at stake and when this happens a new mechanism starts working. Jimmy Carter touches the essence on this: “We need a government as good as its people.”

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City Camouflage

City Camouflage © Q Dock.

Jack P. Kruf

This palette of colour and construction finds its base in the combination of city regulation, the use of different materials, the progressive insights in and possibilities for the creation of new infrastructure to ease interior lifestyle as well as of the personal colour touch of the owner of this house in the centre of the City of Verona. It is a form of city camouflage, at least a very nice try. The image is fully packed with information.

Abiotic City Components

Kruf, J.P. (2007) Les couleurs de Normandie.

Jack P. Kruf

Abiotic components of the Ecosystem City® are components that can be considered as the nonliving, being the chemical and physical parts of it. They form more or less the conditions for all living components, as defined in Biotic City Components. They formed and still form the décor for how the city historically has developed, its present state, its growth potential, its maintenance and its future potential. It is an essential part of the habitat.

Abiotic components are climate (seasoning, humidity, precipitation and temperature), terrain (soil quality, availability of nutrients, mineral content, elevation, substrate, tides), water (availability and composition of freshwater, presence of specific chemicals, pollution, water clarity), atmosphere (air quality and composition, aerial exposure, concentrations of chemicals, pollution), light and solar energy, radiation, acidity, pressure and sound waves. Some of the components find their basis in the natural, some in human-made conditions. It is quite a palette.

Cities are based on and surrounded by abiotic components. Presence or absence can influence not only biodiversity, competition, way and rate of survival, culture, but also the over-all resilience of the city. Components can be of advantage for one organisation or group, and create pressure for another one. They influence the landscape of and ratio beween generalists and specialists.

Some cities have nicknames related to – sometimes are famous for – abiotic components. Some examples: Aberdeen and Berlin (The Grey City), Bordeaux (City of Wine), Cadiz (The Little Silver Cup), Chicago (The Windy City), Helsinki (The White City of the North), Honolulu (Sheltered Bay), Jaipur (The Pink City), London (The Old Smoke), Naples (The City of the Sun), Paris (The City of Light), Pittsburgh (The Iron City), Seattle (Rain City), Torino (City of Four Rivers), Venice (Bride of the Sea).

Siena DNA

Kruf, Jack P. (2006) Siena DNA [print on fine art paper]. Breda: Governance Connect, Q-Dock.

Jack P. Kruf

The striking light in one of the streets of Siena, makes the DNA of this city visible. This palette of grey, beige and taupe colours and the fibres of the wall is a small piece of art in itself. This photo I took in 2006 near Piazza del Campo, in the city center. It has so many details that you almost can read how the city is governed and managed, what its rules and regulations are and even how the urban policy plans guide the city infrastructure. Sherlock Holmes doubtlessly is able to complete the whole story.

This photo tells the story of the holistic principle on which every ecosystem has been built. The street tells the story of the city and its governance. It is an exponent of it. A quote by one of the greatest ecologists John Muir (Gilford, 2006) makes us understand the principle of holism – the idea that the whole of something must be considered in order to understand its different parts (Oxford) – in just one simple sentence:

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

John Muir

Siena is maybe the city where public governance was invented. In fact, it can be considered as the Mecca for city managers, mayors and aldermen. History has been written in the painting in the Town Hall of the City of Siena (at that time it was a republic by the way). It is The Allegory of Good and Bad Government, a series of three fresco panels painted in the Sala Dei Nove by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1338/1339. A glimpse of both is visible in this simple and shaded street view.

Lorenzetti, Ambrogio (1338/1339) The Allegory of Good and Bad Government [Fresco). Siena, Sala Dei Nove.

The only way to get to the high level of good government seems to be by coordination, expressed in all forms and tonalities in this beautiful  fresco of Lorenzetti, almost 700 years ago. The importance of coordination – Siena was a very well-run city at that time – is explained very clearly in this video by Charles Fried, professor at Harvard Law School, underlining the holistic principles of city governance.


Gilford, Terry (2006) Reconnecting with John Muir. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 216 pp.

Oxford Learners’ Dictionaries, Holism.

Citizen and City in perspective

104 Tokyo, ©Floriane de Lassée (2008). From her book ‘Inside Views‘.

Jack P. Kruf

This book Inside Views is noteworthy. It is an art impression and expression at the same time. A superb serie of photographs – (with light written) night-scapes – by Floriane de Lassée. What this serie makes so special is that she shows us how the personal living world of people seems to be connected and disconnected at the same time with the system world of the larger city. In fact every photo catches two separate worlds in one single shot. Quite an achievement. Not only that: it is art.

From public governance and city management perspective it is obvious that knowledge of habitats in the city and their layering is crucial in taking the right decisions in city architecture and planning. To connect the individual and personal habitat from the bottom of the ecosystem city with the top, being the larger habitat of the city, is the true challenge for every public leader. It is about the true understanding what city resilience actually is and how it ‘works’. The lockdown related to Coronavirus shows us how relevant this knowledge is, more than ever. It is the constraint to build trust of citizens in city leadership. And is not solitude what actually has to be managed? De Lassée guides us.

In the high insomnia megalopolis, splashed by stunning lights like so many islands of solitude, a heart beats, fragile, human… I do not photograph cities, but an imaginary City that inhabits each megalopolis. It is the product of the Man’s excesses, his genius, his madness. The City exceeds the overflow. She is about to devour us.”

Floriane de Lassée

During her time in New York, while studying at the International Center of Photography, New York, Floriane de Lassée began to explore the built environment and to document the cityscape at night. Post graduation, as her career took off, de Lassée built on this early work, photographing night scenes in New York, Tokyo and Shanghai.

A selection of these photographs was brought together for the artist’s exhibition Night Views; featured at the Arles Photography Festival in 2006. Inside Views, de Lassee’s first monograph, comprises 42 of the artist’s most powerful night cityscapes to date, and serves not only as a broader introduction of the work for which she is already known in Europe, but also as a bridge between her earliest work in the series, and the transformations it is currently undergoing.

Floriane de Lassée is an original force in contemporary photography. Inside Views is a stunning monograph.


Lassée, Florianne de (2008) Inside Views. Paso Robles: Nazraeli Press.

Wikipedia, ‘Floriane de Lassée’.ée

The confirmation bias in us

Twist. © Louise Kruf

Jack P. Kruf

Some things are remarkable and for most leaders and managers hidden or simply unnoticed. One of them is confirmation bias. Within science and literature it is described, researched and elaborated over and over again, throughout history in fact, beginning with the Greek historian Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC). He wrote: “… for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.”

This steering mechanism in our brains can be defined according Cambridge Dictionary as the way a particular person understands events, facts, and other people, which is based on their own particular set of beliefs and experiences and may not be reasonable or accurate.

Wikipedia cites the definition of Haselton et al. (2005): a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. It ads to this the interpretation: Individuals create their own “subjective reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

Generally spoken we, humans, have some ’embedded heuristics’ which Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky described as ‘highly economical and usually effective, but lead to systematic and predictable errors’. It is an aspect to be aware of when chairing or participating in a meeting. It is mentioned as a key driver in risk management theories. It can creep into the discussion and decision making process, staying unnoticed and dressed as humor, good-spirit, support, collegiality and optimism.

Confirmation bias is also about the internal “yes man“, echoing back a person’s beliefs like Charles Dickens‘ character Uriah Heep in his book David Copperfield. Uriah, the clerk is “cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own “‘umbleness”” (Wikipedia).

In a short but excellent video Jason Zweig (2009) explains how this mechanism is related to the handling of our own stocks and investments, this in addition to his article. Confirmation bias is all over the place in the stock-market. It is studied extensively. Zweig gives advise how to ignore the yes-man in our heads.

Social psychologist Richard Stanley Crutchfield discovered that 1/3 of the people ignored what they saw and went with the consensus. People within a research experiment (and this has been done over and over again) agreed all to a certain question when they were not exposed to the answers of others. But when they heard that everyone of there group disagreed (before they gave there judgment), 31 to 37 per cent said they did not agree!

Solomon Asch (Gardner, 2009) also concluded later in new experiments,  that “overall, people conformed to an obviously false group consensus one-third of the time”. In line what Crutchfield discovered earlier. Gardner concludes :“We are social animals and what others think matters deeply to us… we want to agree with the group” and “it certainly is disturbing to see people set aside what they clearly know to be true and say what they know to be false.”

From the evolutionary perspective there the human tendency to conform is not so strange. We are gregarious after all. It is the survival perspective to best to follow the herd. Gardner: “We also remain social animals who care about what other people think. And if we aren’t sure whether we should worry about a certain risk, it matters where other people are worried about seem to make a huge difference.”

The other way around though is that also government is sensitive for anchoring. Governments anchor on popular opinions. It influences the way they respond. And this mechanism could be at the basis of the rising populistic wave on which political parties surf their campaigns and public leaders base their decisions upon. Reading the news and following the political debates it becomes clear that scientists have found and described realistic and fundamental mechanisms of us. We know how predictable we are, but often do not want to know about this.

Cas Sunstein (Gardner, 2009) elaborated the consequence of this mechanism on individual level, when information is coming in. He concluded that belief causes confirmation bias, and therefor in-coming information is screened thoroughly. If it supports the own conviction the incoming information is readily accepted. If not, it is ignored, scrutinized carefully or flatly rejected. Isn’t this recognisable in the debates we share, attend and see in the media by some leaders (in fact the wrong word). And isn’t this a mechanism we recognise in ourselves. Let us be honest.

Being aware of this bias, as Kahneman and Tversky stated, could contribute to improved public governance: “understanding of these heuristics and of the biases to which they lead could improve judgements and decisions in situations of uncertainty’. For me is knowing that 1/3 of the people in a meeting could have an interesting view – which is not shared due to conformation bias (or possible group consensus, which actually can develop in every meeting –  a true eye opener. And a personal conviction to the find a way to get the best out of each meeting by creating a open mind setting and safety within the group. It can and may not be that precious knowledge, enriching experiences or clear views are getting lost in the melee of the groups dynamic.”

So, creating space for each individual in the battle of the group process is crucial. It is a challenging task. More than that, a renaissance for the individual.

Bibliography & Artography

Cambridge Online Dictionary.

Dickens, C. (1850) The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. London: Bradbury & Evans.

Gardner, Dan (2009) Risk: The Science and Politic of Fear. London: Virgin Books, 422 pp.

Haselton MG, Nettle D, Andrews PW (2005) The evolution of cognitive bias. In Buss DM (ed.). The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (PDF). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc. pp. 724–746.

Kahneman, Daniel & Amos Tversky (1974) Jugdement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, Volume 185, pp. 1124-1131

Kahneman, Daniel & Amos Tversky (1974) Jugdement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, Volume 185, pp. 1124-1131

Sunstein, C.R. (2005) Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle Principle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dent, J. M. (1910) Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, New York: E. P. Dutton.

Wikipedia, Uriah Heep.

Wikipedia. Cognitive bias.

Zweig, Jason (2009) How to ignore the yes-man in your head, Wall Street Journal. New York:  Dow Jones & Company.